If the days aren't icy, they're just plain cold. If the snow isn't falling, it's turning to to black slush in the streets. Either way, it's slippery. And the bleak days may not actually outnumber the gloriously sunny ones, but the short daylight hours make it feel like we're being shortchanged on sunshine. So, what to do?
I've got a few tips for surving a winter in Scandinavia:
#1 Get yourself a red umbrella!
Of all my tips, this one is the least serious, but the most fun. Last winter my umbrella was gray and busted. It took me a little while to figure out that, as I walked the streets of Oslo, my view from under the umbrella was impacting my world outlook. I traded up. No surprise, things look rosier with a bright, cheery, cherry red frame. Get a cute, colorful umbrella for those rainy, sleety days.
#2 Keep your feet warm, dry, and adorable.
Ask an infantryman. This is essential to survival no matter where you are. (Though probably minus the adorable.) Even in dark, cold, wet Norway, this is easier than it sounds. Tall wool socks. Waterproof, insulated boots. There's no need to sacrifice style here, either. My wonderful winter boots are fleece-lined North Face . And SmartWool makes cute knee-high wool socks . It's easy to lose the energy or motivation to primp when things are damp and cold, and parkas turn every person on the street into a hooded-version of the Michelin Man . But as you walk carefully across black patches of ice and you're concentrating on your (still warm!) feet, you'll be very glad you cuted them up, and invested in the best boots and socks.
#3 Stockpile the citrus.
The grønnsaker (vegetable) stands in Oslo are piled high with Clementines this time of year. Why? Bite into one on a winter day and you're met with a mouthful of instant, juicy sunshine. The Vitamin C is thought to reduce depression . Which brings me to one of the most important tips for Scandinavian winter survival...
#4 Follow the sun.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
is a real thing, folks, and those who move to Norway should be aware of it.
Symptoms: loss of energy, change in appetite, tendency to oversleep, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.
I hate to bring it up, but
Norway's suicide rate is considered fairly high
, a surprise considering
Norway holds the title of Happiest Country in the world
. So, while munching on Clementines, look for any ray of sunshine and follow it to the source.
I'm not exaggerating. Stop what you're doing and walk out to an open space, turn your face to the sun like a sunflower, close your eyes, and soak it in. You won't be alone. I'll probably be there, especially since February 2012 will forever rank as my darkest month (emotionally). I learned. Now I chase the sun, and I'm willing to stand like an idiot in public, motionless, hands raised to the sky.
#5 When all else fails, leave.
A short holiday in a land where the sun rises a little sooner and sets a little later (and shows it's bright, beautiful face a little more often) will do wonders for the damp, bedraggled psyche. Many Norwegians run south in mid-winter, to Spain, Portugal, the south of France. This was probably our biggest mistake during our first winter in the Nordics... we didn't leave Norway once! This year, I spent some major time in California in November and December. A warm, sunny day at Disneyland... a warm, sunny day anywhere... problem solved.
And I promise, those glorious, sunny days of summer, the flowers, the music, and the ice cream trucks will be back soon. Only 50 more days to the Vernal Equinox!